Scallop search comes up empty handed

The creatures appear as something out of a science fiction movie.

Their outer shell is hard and rounded with scaly groves. A mouth stretches along the entire diameter of the body with hundreds of fringe-like tentacles.

A ring of bright royal blue eyes sweep around each edge of the mouth.

But this bivalve mollusk is no alien.

It’s the native Bay Scallop, a sea food delicacy once found in abundance along the sea grass bed of the Santa Rosa Sound.

The population dramatically declined in the 1990s from over harvesting and degradation of water quality, prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ban the once prevalent commercial harvest and significantly limit recreational harvests.

Since the decline, the FWC has been working to collect data on the state of populations throughout the harvest zone, but areas like Santa Rosa Sound and Big Lagoon are lacking in data collection leaving many to wonder how the population that once thrived here is fairing.

That’s where Chris Verlinde of the UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant comes in.

Saturday, July 30, Verlinde organized 19 volunteer teams of 3 to 4 for the second annual Great Scallop Search in Santa Rosa Sound.

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Boat Captain Terry Waggoner takes measurements of water depth and logs them during the search while snorkelers search the bottom.

Boat Captain Terry Waggoner takes measurements of water depth and logs them during the search while snorkelers search the bottom.

Snorkelers Olga Stone and Sarah Garrido discuss where to setup the next transect to search for scallops.

Snorkelers Olga Stone and Sarah Garrido discuss where to setup the next transect to search for scallops.

Bay Scallops inhabit sea grass beds along the Florida gulf coast and lagoons. This sea grass is thick, and it makes finding the mollusks tricky.

Bay Scallops inhabit sea grass beds along the Florida gulf coast and lagoons. This sea grass is thick, and it makes finding the mollusks tricky.

Visibility is low as Sarah Garrido scours the bottom of Santa Rosa Sound for the tell-tale blue eyes of a Bay Scallop during the second Great Scallop Search Saturday, July 30.

Visibility is low as Sarah Garrido scours the bottom of Santa Rosa Sound for the tell-tale blue eyes of a Bay Scallop during the second Great Scallop Search Saturday, July 30.

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